What have you written?
“‘The Lion's Drum - A Retelling of an African Folktale.’ It’s the retelling of an African folktale. It’s available at talesalive.com, and some major bookstores.”
Tell me about it.
“A young African hunter finds a lion beating what he thinks is a magic tree stump, and all the animals are dancing. Later, he steals the magic tree stump, brings it back to his village, and introduces the villagers, and essentially the people of Africa, to the drum.”
How did you come to write this?
“I actually have my bachelor’s in writing from UCSD. I went to college dreaming of becoming a famous writer and being retired before I hit 35. That didn’t work out, but I still enjoy writing, and when I got into storytelling, it gave me a different avenue. My wife and I do multicultural storytelling. We’re trying to raise cultural awareness, which will in turn promote harmony among different people and different cultures. She’s half Japanese, and we do Japanese stories and, of course, with my background, we do African stories. We go to libraries and schools, and we were just up at the Carnival of Cultures in San Marcos. We bring out different backdrops with typical motifs from each culture, and we always have musical accompaniment with instruments from that culture. A lot of people are familiar with the African drum, but they might not know the exact name or be familiar with the thumb piano or some of the shakers and rattles. And only a very few people have seen the Japanese koto — it’s about six feet long and played with picks on the fingers. It kind of sounds like a harp.
“In the course of reading folk tales and traditional stories, we came across this [story], and it wasn’t in book form like this anywhere that we could find, so we went ahead and did our own version. With a lot of tales, you can go straight from the book. But with others — and particularly with Africa, because it’s such a harsh culture — the tales are not really appropriate for children. There are a lot of stories where the penalty is death for somebody who tells a lie. In the story ‘Koi and the Kola Nuts,’ Koi has to do all these tasks to keep from being eaten by the villagers he meets. In the published version, Koi is trying to win the chief’s daughter. We go through and kind of rework it — keep the same African flavor, but make it a little more palatable. This was a nice story about the drum, and it’s an origin story.”
When do you write?
“Whenever it hits me. We’ll do a lot of storytelling shows where I’ve got stories going through my head and I really want to sit down and write one because it’s just there, present, and it’s kind of calling, ‘Hey, put me down so you don’t forget me.’”
What’s the worst book you’ve ever read?
“I’m not a big fan of Hemingway or Fitzgerald. They’re very good at, basically, stories about somebody you know is going to fail. Hemingway is very good at bringing you into the character — you’re wanting the wonderful ending for the character — and then he drops you. The hero dies, or everything he’s fought for is destroyed.”
Name: Steven Gregory | Age: 39 | Occupation: Technical Writer/Storyteller
Neighborhood: Bay Park | Where interviewed: At his home